John Lennon and Yoko Ono were faced with the very real prospect of being deported from the US in 1972 by Richard Nixon. The pair were put in touch with lawyer Leon Wildes, who quickly put together a strong case and won. Here, his son Michael shares the story
In the 1970s, President Richard Nixon, displeased with John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s anti-war efforts, attempted to deport them. Lennon hired lawyer Leon Wildes in New York City to fight the case and won. The precedent established formed the basis of contemporary immigration reform: Lennon was a dreamer, and not the only one. Here, Wildes recalls the first time he met the couple.
The call came on the afternoon of January 14, 1972. “Leon, I have a possible new client for you to meet,” a former law school classmate, Alan Kahn, told me. “Real heavyweights, and they don’t come to a lawyer’s offices. I’m talking about John Lennon and Yoko Ono. They are looking for special immigration counsel, and I have recommended you.”
“I’d be pleased,” I said. “When and where shall we meet?”
When I arrived at the large and ultramodern offices of Apple Records a few hours later, Alan welcomed me with a broad smile as he showed off his new digs. “Leon, most immigration lawyers would give their eyeteeth just to meet John and Yoko. Let me brief you before you meet Allen Klein, my boss.”
“Before you tell me about their legal problem, Alan, I must tell you that I have no idea who these people are.”
He stared at me for a moment, open-mouthed. “I can’t believe it, Leon. You really never heard of them?”
I shrugged sheepishly. “Never.”
“I wouldn’t advertise that,” he said, lowering his voice. “They have enormous egos, like most of the people in this industry. John Lennon is probably the greatest musician who ever lived. Yoko is his wife. She is some kind of artist, who nobody understands, but everyone has heard of them.”
It took about a half-hour in the back of a chauffeured black Cadillac for us to reach the Lennon digs in Greenwich Village. Allen Klein, John’s manager, led the way. “I am Allen Klein, and I’m here to see John Lennon,” he announced, bulldozing his way past the young man peering through the peephole on the other side of the door.
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